My kids fought over prayer wording on the way to church.
The dishes aren't all done.
Laundry is in piles.
Bedtime is abominable.
And tonight I denied echo prayer because I was 99.9% sure it was a delaying bedtime technique that I wasn't game for. I'm pretty sure Jesus gets it the first time around.
There are a million ways that I can look at my life and critique all the things that I am not.
A common condition.
Today I sat amongst a group of mamas bravely breathing aloud their questions and fears. In a season where days can feel long but years go by fast, we struggled together with how to best love our children into the finest people they can be when there are so many outside voices and we're just one voice trying to get it right.
I can't imagine that parenting has ever been easy. Challenges have and always will be present, in flux with trends and financial outlooks. Ironically the bane of our time - creating quality experiences with our kids - might also be the thing most killing us.
This Pinterest-perfect world has created pressure to do everything bigger and better. There's sense that our house isn't lovely unless it looks a showroom, our children's birthday party isn't quality unless it's a money-draining thematic event, and our parenting isn't loving unless we can drop all frustration and urgency. (I once read an article from a mom suggesting she was never going to say "hurry" to her child again because she didn't want the tape in their mind to be rushing through life. This seemed nice in theory until I failed the first time out the door.) Add to that the activities we feel we need to put them in as badges of pride and there's no wonder why we feel failure.
IT'S NOT POSSIBLE.
The question was posed to me after hearing of my work, "What one thing would you tell parents?" It was meant in a to-parent-children way. Big and broad and difficult to answer. I said, "Try to seize discussion in the every day moments so they know they can always come to you."
I just read an email from a twelve year old who wrote, "My parents don't ever talk to me about the important things. I don't even know if they know I exist. They'd have probably been better off never having me."
My heart fractured into a million pieces for the tween feeling this way AND for the parents who could very well be your everyday mother and father, trying to do their best to love well. It's just that all the right things to the world fall shallow in a tiny heart.
Sometimes gifting yourself permission to let go of what you think makes the perfect parent - It's not if you made the cake, or signed up for all the summer activities or if made your house more sterile than a hospital floor. That just makes people nervous anyway - and reviving the simple breathes the most life-giving breath into these relationships that matter most.
Play board games. Make ice cream floats. Worship as a family. Laugh. Take a class together. Talk about all the things they face and answer the questions even if you don't skate your way through. I can tell you my, "What does sign language of the middle finger up mean?" answer didn't fall out perfect and is that truly sign language but I gave it a try with hope that knowing she can ask me about the "swear finger" now without getting in trouble assures her she can ask tougher questions down the road.
Relationship over imagined perfection.
This simple investment is quality experience to our children. And it says you are safe. You are secure. You are loved.
Moms and dads, you might just be one voice, but you are THE MOST IMPORTANT voice.
The ordinary you is actually an extraordinary you
Yes, we are going to feel exhausted and our kids will, at times, drive us nuts but we are doing the challenging work of raising a human not a robot. We aren't going to feel like we nail everything because we don't get convenient little memos about when issues are going to come up or escape the impressions of society.
But only One's impression matters anyway. And if you are earnestly asking the questions and seeking the Lord's voice in the struggle, I can only imagine Him saying, "Well done" because that is a humble heart, tender to God's leading.
Perhaps the sign of a great parent isn't so much feeling we have it all together as it is feeling we need More.
Scale it back.
And in simple moments you'll turn to find witness to the good you've laid.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Fill My Cup. It has been republished here with permission.